Jharkhand, where most rural and semi-urban pockets and even some urban neighbourhoods are plagued by arsenic and fluoride contamination, received its first state-of-the-art water-testing laboratory on Thursday.
Drinking water and sanitation minister Jai Prakash Bhai Patel threw open the hi-tech facility at PHED Colony in Hinoo in the heart of Ranchi. Sprawling over 2,600sqft, the single-storey, air-conditioned laboratory has 10 units for distinct purposes.
Apart from the reception area, where samples coming from different parts of the state will be collected, there is a computer room to store data and reports, an office for chemists, a storeroom and a washroom.
The testing section includes a microbiology lab equipped with stereoscopic microscope (an optical microscope variant designed for low magnification observation of a sample) to determine the presence of harmful bacteria and virus in water and a wet lab for quantitative chemical analysis of samples with the help of titration method.
Another chamber boasts a spectrometer that can help find out the percentage of iron, fluoride, nitrate, calcium, aluminium and zinc in water.
A fourth testing chamber is equipped with a digital pH meter to test acidity and alkalinity of a sample as well as a nephelometer to measure concentration of suspended particulate matter or, in other words, turbidity of water. A fifth lab has an ion meter to test presence of harmful fluorides.
Sources in the drinking water and sanitation department said Rs 40 lakh had been spent on facility and purchase of equipment. In a month, the laboratory can test 300 samples and reports can be expected within a week. While government samples will receive priority service, private parties can also use the lab for a fee of Rs 1,600 per test.
The parameters for water investigations include turbidity, pH value, hardness, TDS (total dissolved solids), presence of calcium, magnesium, iron, fluoride, chloride, arsenic, nitrates and nitrites, alkalinity as CaCO3 (calcium carbonate), colour, MPN (most probable number) Count in 100ml and residual chlorine in 10ml.
Eight chemists will man this state-level laboratory. While two are government employees, six have been outsourced from Ranchi-based NGO Yugantar Bharati, which independently monitors environment issues.
Inaugurating the laboratory, drinking water and sanitation minister Patel said the objective was to ensure safe drinking water to every person in the state. “Very soon, such facilities will come up in districts and blocks,” he promised.
Those present on the occasion included state co-ordinator for water quality Vivek Singh and senior officials of the department, besides office-bearers of the voluntary organisation.
“Starting this facility is significant because there are reports of arsenic and fluoride in water in Garhwa, Palamau and Sahebganj. This state-level laboratory will help confirm tests conducted at fledgling district units,” summed up drinking water and sanitation secretary Sudhir Prasad.